Skip to main content

Why I live 60 meters up a tree

By Miranda Gibson, Special to CNN
October 30, 2012 -- Updated 0351 GMT (1151 HKT)
Miranda Gibson lives on a 60-meter high platform in a 400-year-old tree in Tasmania, Australia
Miranda Gibson lives on a 60-meter high platform in a 400-year-old tree in Tasmania, Australia
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Activist Miranda Gibson wants to protect 572,000 hectares of old-growth forest
  • Talks between environmentalists and loggers have broken down
  • Vows to live in the 400-year-old tree until a deal is reached

Editor's note: For 10 months, Australian environmental activist Miranda Gibson has been living on a platform in a Eucalyptus tree 60 meters above the ground in Tasmania's southern forest. She's vowing to stay there until the forests receive greater state protection from logging. Gibson writes a blog from her Observertree.

Tyenna Valley, Tasmania (CNN) -- Like many I have been anxiously waiting the outcome of the Tasmanian "forest peace talks."

But unlike most, I have done so 200 feet (60 meters) above the ground, perched at the top of an old growth tree whose fate depends upon them. A tree I climbed 10 months ago and vowed not to leave until the forests were protected.

And then on Saturday the news hit -- the talks had collapsed.

The two years of talks between environment groups, unions and industry representatives failed to find the resolution to bring the industry out of crisis and protect Tasmania's high conservation value forests. No deal means clear-felling of old growth forests is set to continue.

The tree that has been my home since December 14 last year is a part of 572,000 hectares at the center of the debate. Verified by scientific experts to be of world heritage value, it should have have been on its way to formal protection. And I should have been on my way out of this tree and into a long hot bath!

Environmental activist Miranda Gibson
Environmental activist Miranda Gibson

Unfortunately the forestry industry had other ideas, digging in its heels when it came to final crunch.

Neither the science nor the economics seem to have won out. The Tasmanian forestry industry is in crisis and being propped up by tax payer funds. There are some who may want to put their heads in the sand, but we cannot go on ignoring today's market realities of a worldwide trend towards environmentally friendly products.

From my tree top platform, I have Skyped my way around the globe, speaking to thousands of people. And the message is clear, people don't want to buy furniture and flooring made from the destruction of endangered species habitat, community water catchments or globally significant carbon sinks.

The failure of the talks has created uncertainty for the future of the forests here. And with it, uncertainty for me. With no end in sight, who knows how long it will be before I set foot on the ground again?

I have already become the Australian record holder for the longest time spent in a tree, after I reached 209 days back in July this year. I hope, for the sake of the forests, that I will not need to break the world record held by Julia Butterfly Hill, who sat for two years in a Californian Redwood.

'Himalayan Viagra' takes its toll on Nepal's environment

In the upper branches of this 400-year-old tree I have endured high wind, snow, hail and extreme conditions. It's been a tough winter, that's for sure. And the weather isn't the only challenge.

Living on a three meter platform suspended in the tree tops adds difficulty to every daily task that I once took for granted. No turning on the tap for hot water or going to the shops if you run out of milk! I have to bathe in a small bucket. And I haul up everything I need on a long rope, relying on support from the community for donations of food and supplies.

Luckily support has flooded in, from all walks of life, locally and internationally. The many people who visit the base of the tree to say thank you have been overwhelmingly inspirational. And it has helped me get through what is the hardest part of this experience -- the loneliness of being separated from my loved ones.

Yet, no matter how challenging, there are constantly moments when I am awe-struck by the beauty of this forest. The coating of snow across the forest in winter, the star speckled skies of summer nights or watching endangered wedge-tailed eagles soar in the skies above.

I have watched the seasons come and go. And with it, new life in the forest. Conservationists placed hidden cameras in the forest below, capturing footage of a mother Tasmanian Devil, the day before logging began. This iconic Australian species is listed as endangered in both federal and state legislation.

Luckily, the media spotlight from my action had the loggers packing up and leaving after a week, giving these young devils a chance of survival. In February 2012, to our delight, footage was taken of the juvenile devils exploring the world. Sadly, with the collapse of the talks, logging of their habitat could begin again any day now.

Autumn color around the world

Many people ask my why I am willing to sacrifice everything in my life, give up my chance to spend time with family and friends, and put my career as a high school teacher on hold, in order to sit in a tree.

But when I look around me at this unique and irreplaceable ecosystem the answer is simple: I sit in this tree because from here I believe it is possible to save this forest once and for all.

Of course, it takes more than one woman perched 60 meters above the ground; it takes an international community. And I have been able to share my story with the world, powered by solar panels and blogging about my tree top life.

I hope my action will be a catalyst, inspiring others to say no to wood products that come from unsustainable forestry practices. And say yes to the protection of the world's globally significant forests.

Despite the cloud of uncertainty that now looms over the future of these forests, I am one hundred percent committed to staying in this tree for as long as it takes to see this forest receive the protection it deserves.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Miranda Gibson.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1538 GMT (2338 HKT)
The idea is difficult to stomach, but John Sutter writes that eating dog is morally equivalent to eating pig, another intelligent animal. If Americans oppose it, they should question their own eating habits as well.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1630 GMT (0030 HKT)
Bill van Esveld says under the laws of war, civilians who do not join in the fight are always to be protected. An International Criminal Court could rule on whether Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocketing are war crimes.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1205 GMT (2005 HKT)
LZ Granderson says Ronald Reagan went horseback riding and took a vacation after the Korean Air Crash of 1983. So why does the GOP keep airbrushing history to bash Obama?
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1338 GMT (2138 HKT)
Aaron Miller says Kerry needs the cooperation of Hamas, Israel, Egypt and others if he is to succeed in his peacemaking efforts
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1251 GMT (2051 HKT)
Errol Louis says the tragic death of Eric Garner at the hands of the NYPD has its roots in the "broken windows" police strategy from the crime-ridden '80s.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1408 GMT (2208 HKT)
Gordon Brown says the kidnapped Nigerian girls have been in captivity for 100 days, but the world has not forgotten them.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1127 GMT (1927 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says Texas Gov. Rick Perry is right to immediately send 1,000 National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border in response to the border children crisis.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1356 GMT (2156 HKT)
Ukraine's president says the downing of MH17 was a terrorist act, but Richard Barrett says it would be considered terrorism only if it was intentional
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 2015 GMT (0415 HKT)
Robert McIntyre says the loophole that lets firms avoid taxes should be closed
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1535 GMT (2335 HKT)
Jeronimo Saldana and Malik Burnett say Gov. Perry's plan to send National Guard to the border won't solve the escalating immigration problem.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1742 GMT (0142 HKT)
Sally Kohn: The world's fish and waters are polluted and under threat. Be very careful what fish you eat
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 1242 GMT (2042 HKT)
Les Abend says threat information that pilots respond to is only as good as the intelligence from air traffic controllers. And none of it is a match for a radar-guided missile
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1235 GMT (2035 HKT)
Frida Ghitis: Anger over MH17 is growing against pro-Russia separatists. It's time for the Dutch government to lead, she writes
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1227 GMT (2027 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says President Obama called inequality the "defining challenge" of our time but hasn't followed through.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1157 GMT (1957 HKT)
Gene Seymour says the 'Rockford Files' actor worked the persona of the principled coward, charming audiences on big and small screen for generations
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1417 GMT (2217 HKT)
Daniel Treisman says that when the Russian leader tied his fate to the Ukraine separatists, he set the stage for his current risky predicament
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1642 GMT (0042 HKT)
Andrew Kuchins says urgent diplomacy -- not sanctions -- is needed to de-escalate the conflict in Ukraine that helped lead to the downing of an airliner there.
July 19, 2014 -- Updated 0150 GMT (0950 HKT)
Jim Hall and Peter Goelz say there should be an immediate and thorough investigation into what happened to MH17.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1507 GMT (2307 HKT)
Pilot Bill Palmer says main defense commercial jets have against missiles is to avoid flying over conflict areas.
July 20, 2014 -- Updated 1755 GMT (0155 HKT)
Valerie Jarrett says that working women should not be discriminated against because they are pregnant.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1953 GMT (0353 HKT)
David Wheeler says the next time you get a difficult customer representative, think about recording the call.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1933 GMT (0333 HKT)
Newt Gingrich says the more dangerous the world becomes the more Obama hides in a fantasy world.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1011 GMT (1811 HKT)
Michael Desch: It's hard to see why anyone, including Russia and its local allies, would have intentionally targeted the Malaysian Airlines flight
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1914 GMT (0314 HKT)
LZ Granderson says we must remember our visceral horror at the news of children killed in an airstrike on a Gaza beach next time our politicians talk of war
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1206 GMT (2006 HKT)
Sally Kohn says now the House GOP wants to sue Obama for not implementing a law fast enough, a law they voted down 50 times, all reason has left the room.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1214 GMT (2014 HKT)
A street sign for Wall Street
Sens. Elizabeth Warren, John McCain and others want to scale back the "too big to fail" banks that put us at risk of another financial collapse.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 2016 GMT (0416 HKT)
Newt Gingrich writes an open letter to Robert McDonald, the nominee to head the Veterans Administration.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1601 GMT (0001 HKT)
Paul Begala says Dick Cheney has caused an inordinate amount of damage yet continues in a relentless effort to revise the history of his failures.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1404 GMT (2204 HKT)
Kids who takes cell phones to bed are not sleeping, says Mel Robbins. Make them park their phones with the parents at night.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1729 GMT (0129 HKT)
Buzz Aldrin looked at planet Earth as he stood on talcum-like lunar dust 45 years ago. He thinks the next frontier should be Mars.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1804 GMT (0204 HKT)
Mark Zeller never thought my Afghan translator would save his life by killing two Taliban fighters who were about to kill him. The Taliban retaliated by placing him on the top of its kill list.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1518 GMT (2318 HKT)
Jeff Yang says an all-white cast of Asian characters in cartoonish costumes is racially offensive.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 0124 GMT (0924 HKT)
Gary Ginsberg says the late John F. Kennedy Jr.'s reaction to an event in 1995 summed up his character
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1641 GMT (0041 HKT)
Meg Urry says most falling space debris lands on the planet harmlessly and with no witnesses.
ADVERTISEMENT